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Erik Davis ( is an author, podcaster, award-winning journalist, and lecturer based in San Francisco. He is the author, most recently, of Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica (Yeti, 2010). He also wrote The Visionary State: A Journey through California’s Spiritual Landscape (Chronicle, 2006), Led Zeppelin IV (33 1/3, 2005) and TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information (Crown, 1998), which has been translated into five languages and recently reissued with a new afterword by North Atlantic Books (2015). Davis has contributed to scores of publications, including The Wire, Arthur,, Bookforum, Wired, the LA Weekly, and the Village Voice. He has been interviewed by CNN, the BBC, public radio, and the New York Times, and explores the “cultures of consciousness” on his long-running weekly podcast Expanding Mind. His essays on music, technoculture, psychedelics, and esoterica have appeared in dozens of books, including Zig Zag Zen (Synergetic, 2015), Rave Culture and Religion (Routledge, 2009), Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture (MIT, 2008), and AfterBurn: Reflections on Burning Μan (University of New Mexico Press, 2005). He graduated from Yale University, and recently earned his PhD in Religious Studies from Rice University.


To understand psychoanalysis, you have to understand the uncanny. But to understand psychedelics—as well as the paranormal, the culture of counterculture, and the reverberations of quantum physics and advanced technologies in our lives—you have to understand the weird.

The weird is more than the uncanny’s low-brow country cousin. Nor is it simply a domain or style of cultural production. The weird is a mode and category of being. We may enjoy weird tales, but the world is telling us one all the time–and we can respond in kind. There are many reasons to heed Alan Watts’ advice to “follow your own weird.”

In this talk we will try to add some ontological heft to this peculiar but persistent term, which is widely used in a casual way but rarely analyzed, historicized, and granted its own singular if sometimes disturbing substance. Tracing the etymology and use of the world through literature, pop culture, anthropology, and physics, we will find that the weird forms a Möbius strip between the spookiness of fate and necessity, and the eccentric, aberrant twist of deviance. Weirdness is the cause and costume of anomaly. It thus provides a naturalistic—if sometimes esoteric—way of understanding and talking about “supernatural” phenomena, as well as the fringes of our own experience.